How much sleep is enough?
While the development of the brain plays a role in establishing sleep-wake cycles and how much sleep a person needs, learning and conditioning also have an effect. This is good news for parents, who can help their children develop healthy sleep habits. When establishing sleep routines, keep the following in mind:
- Newborns up to 3 months will sleep between 16 to 20 hours in a 24-hour period, sleeping for one to four hours and waking for one to two hours.
- Depending on the baby, newborns will begin to tell the difference between day and night between 6 weeks and 3 months of age.
- A 4- to 5-month-old will sleep 14 or 15 hours each day with up to six to eight hours of continuous sleep.
- Six to 12 month olds will sleep 13 to 14 hours a day with two naps.
- Between 70 and 80 percent of 9 month olds will sleep through the night.
- Toddlers sleep about 12 hours a day with usually one nap.
- Preschoolers, ages 3 to 6, sleep 10 or 11 hours each day. Naps decrease during this time and usually end around age 5 (or sooner in some children)
- School-age children need up to 10 hours of sleep.
- Teens should get nine hours of sleep each night.
- Most adults should sleep eight hours
Healthy sleep tips for children
It’s much easier to prevent a sleep problem than to treat one, so here are some tips to help your child establish life-long patterns of good sleep:
- Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. A good motto is ‘Sleep Begets Sleep’. Children who are well rested have a more restful night’s sleep as compared to children who are sleep deprived.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine, typically around 15-20 minutes long. This may include giving your child a warm bath or reading a story. Sleep routines should be easy and portable so you can repeat it even when you are away from your house. Sleep routines should be carried out in a place other than a child’s bed or crib to avoid sleep onset associations from developing.
- Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.
- Avoid giving children caffeinated products including cocoa less than six hours before bedtime.
- Keep the bedroom dark. If necessary, use a small nightlight. Expose your child to natural sunlight soon after awakening in the morning.
- Keep the noise level low.
- Don’t give in to requests for one more kiss or a tissue. A firm and consistent approach to a stall tactic will help avoid reinforcing the behavior. If your son or daughter needs to use the bathroom, send him/her by him (her) self. This limits more contact with you.
- Except for younger children who need naps, avoid naps during the day.
- Exercise can promote good sleep, but not within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoid emotional conversations, watching TV that is exciting or scary, or playing electronic or computer games before bedtime. It is important to keep all non-sleep activities out of the bed. (Ex. Avoid reading or watching TV in bed)
- Keep the TV out of your child’s bedroom.
- Talk with your pediatrician about medications that may affect your child’s sleep. Ask for alternative medications if necessary.
- If your older child is having sleep problems, encourage her to keep a sleep diary to record how much time she slept the night before and how she feels the next day. After one week, review the diary with her and look for potential influences on the quality and quantity of her sleep, such as watching TV, drinking something caffeinated or arguing with a sibling before bed.
- Teenagers should not alter their bedtime and waking time by more than one hour on weekends or while on vacation.
- Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, 2006
- Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Jodi A. Mindell, 2005
- Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, 2005
- Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens by Judith A. Owens, Jodi A. Mindell, 2005
If you’ve made every effort to help your child with his or her sleep problems and have not found a solution, seek the advice of your pediatrician or contact the Pediatric Sleep Clinic at 717-531-8520.